Back in January 2005, Mark Duplass and his brother Jay Duplass debuted their first feature length film, "The Puffy Chair," at the Sundance Film Festival. That fateful night in Park City would spark a career that has seen the duo flourish into two of the most influential names in American independent film. Writing and directing studio projects "Cyrus" (2010) and "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" (2011) as well as executive producing the films of other budding filmmakers, the Duplass Brothers have become a staple at Sundance. Mark has also blossomed into a bona fide leading man in the indie world, starring in recent Sundance hits "Your Sister's Sister" and "Safety Not Guaranteed.” Adding to his ubiquity is a starring role in FX comedy "The League" and his upcoming HBO series "Togetherness," which he created with his brother.
This year the filmmaker and actor is coming to Sundance with two new projects. After starring in Craig Johnson's debut feature "True Adolescents" back in 2009, Duplass reunites with the director not as an actor but as executive producer for "The Skeleton Twins," starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as siblings who try to figure out their lives after experiencing separate near-death experiences. He is an executive producer of director Charlie McDowell's feature-length debut "The One I Love," in which he also stars alongside "Mad Men" actress Elisabeth Moss as a married couple who find themselves caught in a unique dilemma (the details have been kept under wraps in the film's press so far). Indiewire spoke to Duplass about his history at the festival stretching back to “The Puffy Chair” and what he’s anticipating about this year.
It was almost a decade ago that you and your brother Jay brought "The Puffy Chair" to Sundance. How do you remember that experience and did it feel pivotal at the time?
Oh, it absolutely did. I remember us being in the theater and the lights were going down and literally within a minute of the movie we both sorta burst out crying [laughs]. It felt like a really long journey to get there. When you're an independent filmmaker, or at least the way we were, that was the pinnacle of what you wanted to achieve, to get a feature film into Sundance. I remember all of it very vividly.
You and your brother have become staples at Sundance. Do you feel a special relationship to the festival?
I do, and I'm not just saying that because you asked it. I mean, we had our first short film there in 2003 and they were one of the only people who would program it. It was one of the ugliest and shittiest movies that would make Sundance. They saw something in it that not a lot of other people ever did and they helped support us and kind of curated our career. I really believe that I would not have my career were it not for Sundance. I owe them kind of everything. It's not out of a sense of obligation that I go back; I feel most comfortable in an indie space and I feel very comfortable at Sundance so whenever they want to take one of my movies they are always the first place I want to go.
You’re a writer, director, producer and actor. What’s the hardest and which do you enjoy the most?
The hardest, most arduous of all for me is directing. You’re usually there the longest. The same could be said for producing, but Jay and I do more executive producing, which is not quite as arduous. Directing is certainly the most rewarding, too. It's the difference between raising children and being a great uncle to children. Acting is like being an uncle: you show up on set, you play a little bit and then you walk away and the director has to take care of the kids. It's a very different relationship and I love them both. They're both very rewarding in their own way.